Docurama // 2011 // 83 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 15th, 2012
From ESPN films, a unique and emotionally rewarding sports documentary that will appeal in a big way to hoop heads but holds plenty of value for those looking for a different spin on the American Dream -- the Senegalese Dream.
For basketball hopefuls in Senegal, Dakar's SEEDS Academy represents the best opportunity to realize their greatest desire: it is a gateway to America, a place where visiting coaches from overseas scout the most skilled players, with prep school invitations at the ready.
Elevate follows four sixteen-year-olds as they (attempt to) transition from SEEDS to the United States, bringing with them a hope and prayer for a shot at college scholarship -- and perhaps the NBA?
I'm basketball guy, so this film is straight up my alley, but don't let the hoops-centric focus dissuade you. Director Anne Buford has crafted a wonderful documentary that keeps thing personal and small and Elevate is all the better for it. She doesn't get into geopolitics, the corruption of the NCAA, or any other world-beating topics. The lens stays focused on these four boys, as they scratch, claw, and assimilate; a journey which is hugely rewarding.
The road to semi-pro and pro basketball is compelling on its own. The amount of work up-and-coming players have to invest, the grades they have to maintain, the time that is demanded of them, all for merely a sliver of a molecule of a chance at the NBA. Now add the dimension of these kids coming from Senegal and you've truly got something.
For these kids, an invite to a prep school is a world-changer. The basketball potential lies beyond, but right in front of them is a chance to score a quality education and return home with a degree. As state in the documentary, there are cultural repercussions for this success as well: the graduates come back and show other kids from their home the path to success.
This pressure is evident on their faces and in their actions. Whether they're struck speechless when given the news they've been offered a prep school scholarship or emotionally devastated when their visa is rejected, Buford's cameras show us that what is at stake is far more than a four year party at the U.
Unfortunately, the DVD is a featherweight: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 2.0 stereo, and no extras. That last one is a huge bummer.
Four kids, four dreams, and a windmill dunk of inspiration. Watch this movie!
Not Guilty, playa!
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Scales of Justice
* 2.00:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG